Car sales held steady in September, boosting third-quarter volumes at major domestic and import automakers in the U.S.
Japanese automakers saw solid year-over-year improvements in the U.S., especially at Honda. The brand sold 115,00 vehicles in September, driving a total Q3 volume of 339,143. These represent increases of 45.5% and 52.7% from the previous year’s numbers, although car sales declined by 7,882 units from the second quarter. Honda’s impressive growth indicates it has finally overcome its supply issues, which heavily hampered the company’s production output in 2022. Honda’s primary competitor, Toyota, also reported strong numbers for the period but with less notable increases thanks to a stronger supply chain in the prior year. The brand sold 203,904 units in September, finishing the quarter with 590,296 vehicle sales. The two totals represent year-over-year increases of 13.9% and 12.9%, respectively, lower than Honda’s gains over the period but reflective of an improving market. In its report, Toyota emphasized the success of its electric, hybrid and fuel cell lineup, which occupied more than one-fourth of the brand’s total sales volume.
American automakers saw similar improvements. General Motors reported third-quarter car sales of 674,336 units, an increase of 21% year-over-year. To date, the company has sold 1,969,522 vehicles in 2023 and is currently 19.3% ahead compared to the same point in 2022. Ford also achieved success in Q3 but arrived slightly behind its competitor in terms of volume. The Blue Oval brand sold 500,504 units from July through September, a positive change of 7.7%. As of reporting, the company’s sales stand at a year-to-date total of 1,508,072, 9.2% greater than in October of 2022. Although it fell behind GM in overall volume, Ford noted in its press release that it beat its rival in the pickups and vans segment by roughly 64,000 units, retaining its position as America’s No. 1 manufacturer of trucks.
Overall, car manufacturers continued to report strong sales in the U.S. over September and the third quarter, heralding the return of demand to the American automotive industry. However, as every brand contended with supply chain disruptions in 2022, the high year-over-year percentage improvements may mislead some into thinking that the car business is back to its full strength. Car sales are still well behind their pre-pandemic totals, which means that a significant portion of the automotive industry’s consumer base has yet to re-enter the market. Furthermore, brands with domestic manufacturing operations, specifically General Motors, Ford and Stellantis, are facing an ongoing strike from the United Auto Workers union, which could prevent them from maintaining their current growth into the fourth quarter. On the other hand, this could work to the benefit of import brands in the coming months, provided they can supply enough inventory to meet unsatisfied demand from Detroit-Three customers. In any case, 2023 has been a complicated year for the industry and likely has even more surprises in store. Making a call on the future of the market may prove impossible until after the holiday season.